(This story was updated at 6:06 p.m. to include new information about a police investigation)
FRIDAY, Sept. 3 — An 11-second video shared by Lansing School Board Vice President and City Council candidate Rachel Willis shows that she was subjected yesterday afternoon to a racist tirade from Michael Hellmann, the owner of a court process servicing firm in Delta Township.
Willis, who is Black, said she was driving on Saginaw Highway in Eaton County when a motorist honked at her, followed her several blocks and called her the N-word numerous times.
The reason? Hellmann, the owner of Serves You Right Processing Service, accused Willis of failing to stop at a stop sign. In the video, Hellmann can be heard calling Willis “an ignorant fucking n****r bitch.” Willis responded by thanking the man and wishing him a “really nice day.”
Hellmann hung up the phone on this reporter when asked about the incident this afternoon, but he was identified by his distinctive black Jeep with a Punisher logo on the tire cover on the back — a reference to a Marvel Comic character who is a cop that turns vigilante and kills criminals. The logo was also prevalent at the pro-Trump insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Hellmann’s Facebook page features several pictures of his black Jeep with either a Blue Lives Matter flag or a Trump 2020 flag. His Facebook page also identities him as a former officer at the Fort Wayne Police Department and air marshal with the U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service. Calls to Fort Wayne Police to confirm Hellmann’s employment were not immediately returned.
Willis said she called Eaton County Sheriff’s officials, who initially declined to review the case. After being contacted by City Pulse today, deputies said they now plan to investigate the incident.
“There needs to be accountability beyond just the fact that this happened to me,” Willis said, noting that the incident showcases the prevalence of racism in the Greater Lansing community.
She added: “My issue was that I am a Black, educated woman with some level of agency and that happened to me. It doesn't matter when you control for education and pedigree. It doesn’t matter when somebody chooses to be racist and hateful to you.
“To go out of your way to call me the N-word? That’s just beyond reprehensible. To do that as an intentional attack of a racial slur in 2021 is unacceptable.”